In the first-ever OBS Builders Guide, we put our direct focus on swapping the factory engine for a Blueprint Engines 383c.i. stroker motor, an American Powertrain transmission, along with a full RideTech Coilover suspension system and 22-inch American Racing wheels. It was an impressive truck that was built right from day 1. Now we turn focus to our Q1 project truck and 2021 OBS Wheel Buyers Guide. This issue we focus on adjustable suspension and bolt-on options for bagged OBS trucks. We have Ridetech AirRide suspension, Toyo Proxes STIII tires, EBC Brakes, Bed Wood and More Retroliner, and much more being installed at Saltworks Fab in Florida.
We are running a staggard setup for the wheels and tires. Sizes 20×8 in the front and 20×9.5 in the rear.
In the same issue, we will also run a 5-page Wheel Manufacturer Highlight article and the OBS Wheel and Tire Buyers Guide. This will be a ton of ink of multiple books and digital/social properties about buying options on these radical trucks.
Truck – 1997 GMC Sierra Ext Cab (see attached with rendering)
Ridetech AirRide Suspension – https://www.ridetech.com/product/air-suspension-system-88-98-c1500/
Ridetech Air Management – https://www.ridetech.com/product/5-gallon-airpod-with-ridepro-x-control-system-en/
U.S. Mags Wheels – https://us-mags.com/bullet-u130-w-14336.htm
Brakes – https://www.shopebcbrakes.com/
Install Shop – SaltWorks Fab https://www.saltworksmfg.com/
Official OBS Builders guide Vol 2 Preorder Link!
Previous OBS Builders Guide Coverage
Link to previous digital articles
Youtube install video link with over 500,000 views
Video of the new truck project
Link to issue 1 of OBS
Link to ST editorial coverage of OBS 1
The classic movie, “A Streetcar Named Desire,” was recently selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.” Lately, it seems that ’88-’98 Chevy trucks are quickly being known to have the same qualities in the truck enthusiast world. GMT400 trucks were on every street corner and car show in the ’90s. With massive production numbers and excellent engineering, these Chevy trucks are still pretty easy to come by and available in many different forms, including shortbed, longbed, quad cab and even two different SUV platforms. Oftentimes, the guy who’s buying and restoring these trucks wanted one in his teen years, and now he’s older, generally successful and more financially stable than when he was 16 years old. These factors also drive custom parts manufacturers to focus on making products for the industry icons and get ahead of the popularity curve.
It’s easy to talk the talk and say you’re a fan of this body style, but it’s far more impactful to walk the walk and own one yourself. So, we took the challenge and jumped into the deep end of desire by picking up a running, driving ’95 Chevy C/K truck from the original owner for a smooth $2,000. Cold A/C and a solid cranking 4.3-liter V-6 gave this truck the appeal, but the full gas tank and a fresh oil change showed us that the previous owner still had love for this 20-plus-year-old family member.
To quickly explain the project’s name: “Stella” is a Latin term meaning “star.” The name popped in our heads after we ordered our 22-inch American Racing Nova wheels. The word “Nova” is a female name of Latin origin that has a definition of both “newness” and “of great energy.” It’s also an astronomical term for a star that suddenly increases in brightness, just like this truck’s future. (Plus, Stella was a pretty stellar character in “A Streetcar Named Desire.”) So, with all that in mind, the name Stella just fits, don’t you think?
Over the next few pages, we’re going to take you through the process of giving this truck new life on the same old roads it’s been cruising down since its inception, first starting with a new suspension, upgraded disc brakes and a new set of wheels and tires. That’s only the beginning, but you have to follow along to see the rest. If this truck doesn’t motivate you to go out and start wrenching on your own OBS project, I’m not sure you picked up the right publication. Now let’s get to the good stuff!
To control our fuel delivery system, we chose to go with Edelbrock’s new Pro-Flo 4 electronic fuel injection. The Pro-Flo 4 is not just a replacement for your carburetor. It’s a complete engineered system that provides the ultimate in performance, drivability and quality. This will result in a smoother idle, faster acceleration, better peak power, improved fuel economy and the ability to control detonation, all in the E-Tuner 4 app.
The key to the improved performance is the fuel injector location, which is at the end of the runner on the intake manifold right before the airflow stream enters the combustion chamber. This location provides a more efficient mixture control that’s unaffected by varying intake manifold runner temperatures and length.
Next to be bolted to the block are our Hedman Hedders designed for the SBC 350ci engine. Hedman Hedders began as a one-man shop in 1954. Bob Hedman, founder of Hedman Hedders, sold his highly sought-after exhaust tubes to fellow racers on the salt flats of the Mojave Desert. But what started out as a way to make a few bucks to pay for Bob’s racing hobby quickly turned into the premier header manufacturer for both the racing and street header marketplaces.
Centerforce is the clutch of choice for our project and recommended by American Powertrain. The Centerforce II Clutch Series utilizes a full facing disc with premium friction materials and a pressure plate with centrifugal weights. It offers superb holding power and maximum clutch life, making this clutch ideal for selected street/strip, off-road and towing applications.
• Patented centrifugal weight design
• Patented ball bearing pressure plate
• High quality friction material
• Light pedal effort
• Increased holding capacity
• Smooth engagement
American Powertrain’s Pro-Fit kits for 88-98 Chevy/GMC C1500 OBS GMT400 trucks come in either 5 or 6-speed. There is no need to cut the floor if your truck is already manual since it fits in the factory location. This kit reuses the original cross-member. It’s actually a very easy install!
30-50% increase in fuel economy
Low RPM cruising for greatly reduced driver fatigue and an improved highway driving experience.
Reduced engine wear leading to longer engine life
Cooler engine operating temperature
The 88-98 Chevy kit includes
AP Revolution Shifter Mechanism locates shifter that will fit bench or bucket seats
Seamless DOM Driveshaft Assembly that has been race balanced
A Driveshaft Slip Yoke made from Cryogenically hardened steel
Polyurethane Transmission Mount
Greased and pre-packed pilot bearing with stainless rollers
Reverse Light Harness
Electronic Speedometer Conversion
Shifter Knob and all the Hardware and instructions you need.
With the engine fully assembled, Trey can slide the engine into the bay and start prepping the cooling system. We used a set of factory V-8 motor mounts to bolt it to the frame and Mishimoto radiators and electric fans. This is a 6.2-liter (383ci) diesel cooling system that Trey recommended for additional cooling. To make it all work correctly, Trey installed a factory OEM diesel coolant reservoir and made a trick aluminum coolant transfer pipe.
Automotive Touchup Paint
AVS on the Web
AZ Pro Performance
Full Pen Fabrication
Hedman Performance Group
Red Line Oil
To complete our interior upgrade, we decided to contact TMI Products to see if the company’s new ’88-’94 Chevy GMT400 seats are ready to order. Timing is everything and we asked at the right moment. They needed a truck to test fit their production pieces and gave us the opportunity to preorder a set before they were officially launched. Naturally we took them up on that offer and our order was placed. When it arrived, we dropped it all off with Corbin at Florida Boy Customs interior shop in High Springs, Florida.
With the old carpet removed, the guys at Florida Boy Custom masked off the dashboard and prepped it for paint. This is not something we recommend you trying yourself. Instead, leave it to some pros at a real interior shop. The paint will chip and fade if not properly coated, especially when you go to put it all back together.
What exactly does a harmonic balancer (sometimes called a dampener) do? Each time a cylinder fires in your engine, a force acts upon the crankshaft, causing it to twist. This force also causes vibrations in the crankshaft. These vibrations from the engine can become too much for the crankshaft to bear, causing it to fail.
This is where the harmonic balancer comes in. The circular device, made of rubber and metal, is bolted at the front end of the crankshaft to help absorb vibrations. ItÕs usually connected to the crank pulley, which drives accessories like the air conditioner. The rubber inside the pulley is what actually absorbs the vibrations and keeps them at a safe level.
The completed kit looks amazing! It is nice and tight to the block, so we don’t have to worry about fitment when installing the engine. Also, the bright finish gives its the quality look they deserve. Impressive! Stay tuned to the next issue for our Centerforce clutch install along with the American Powertrain 5-speed transmission.
Generally, truck trends are unpredictable and cycle quickly through the ranks of the top industry builders and ballers. F-100 bump-sides and pro-touring, patina-paneled C10s are just a few recent examples of popular projects that the average Joe wouldn’t think to produce until they see a fully completed custom gracing the pages of national publications or influential social media channels. These ideas and completed concepts come from the mindset of being unique with the goal of making a statement at massive events like SEMA, LST and Texas Heatwave. With that said, I think it’s safe to say we all see the next major trend hurling down the pipeline like a 6-foot surfer named Bodhi riding a 15-foot wave off Bells Beach during the 50-year storm. (That was a “Point Break” reference if you didn’t catch it. What a great ’90s movie!)
Speaking of the ’90s, if you were a natural born truck junkie finally making it to the legal driving age around those times, you most certainly wanted a Chevy C/K truck since they were literally everywhere. Everyone from utility company employees to school district secretaries used these heavily produced pickups for their day-to-day operations. Even your grandpa’s grocery-getter was most likely an ’89-’98 Chevy. They came in so many different visual styles with factory options galore. Originally designed by Donald Wood in 1983, Chevy was able to move 551,223 of these GMT400 trucks by 1989 alone according to the Standard Catalog, not to mention the popular 454 model released in 1990 that sold 16,953 units over the four years with 13,748 of those units selling in the first year of production alone.
This is the 1995 Chevy C/K that we originally picked up for a mere $2,000. We purchased it from the original owner, it has 150,000 miles on the factory installed engine, cold air conditioning and a handwritten chart that records all of the basic maintenance that has ever been done. The perfect project truck, and we named her Stella for “female star” because we intend to make her famous!
With that heavy of a number, it’s easy to see why we not only saw a massive increase of these trucks in magazines, but also why the custom aftermarket scene is heating up so much right now. These trucks are still pretty easy to come by and the demographic of buyers are slightly older and more well-off than your average new-truck enthusiast. The guys who wanted these trucks in their teens are now older, generally successful and more comfortable than they were at 16 years old. These factors are driving the great custom parts manufacturers to focus on these industry icons to get ahead of the curve.
It’s easy to talk the talk, but it’s far more impactful to walk the walk. So, we put on our Airwalks and jumped into the deep end of desire by picking up a running, driving 1995 Chevy C/K truck from the original owner for a smooth $2,000. Cold A/C and a solid cranking 4.3-liter V-6 gave this truck the appeal, but a full gas tank and a fresh oil change just shows that the previous owner still has love for this 20-plus-year-old family member.
In the next few issues we are going to take you through the process of giving this truck new life on the same old roads it’s been cruising down since its inception, first starting with suspension, brakes and wheels/tires, followed up with a facelift for the ages. The plans don’t stop there, but you’re going to need to stick to the script the see the next steps. If you’re not a subscriber already, I implore you to do so. If this truck doesn’t motivate you to go out and start wrenching on your own project, I’m not sure you picked up the right publication. Now let’s get to the good stuff!
Usually we include the “after” shot toward the end of the story, but we wanted to show you the before and after side by side so you can see the dramatic transition. Now to walk you through how it was done.
First on the list is to remove the old suspension hardware. Leaf springs are old news and completely obsolete with this kit.
Using the supplied paper template, Dallas marked the C-notch location and used a cut-off wheel to slice the frame. Before the new structured brackets can go on, he took the time to coat the frame to avoid any more future rusting.
All RideTech coilovers utilize a single-tube cartridge. Known as “monotube,” the design features a significantly larger piston area, which in turn provides more responsive damping than a twin tube shock. A single adjustment knob controls the rebound curve, allowing you to fine tune your truck’s shocks to suit your driving style and specs. Also, we get our first look at this killer brake upgrade from AZ Pro Performance.
With an empty wheel well, we are ready to bolt in the new upper and lower control arms. All the factory brackets are reused and the coilovers mount in the stock shock location. Really well designed!
Key features of these brakes:
Our choice for wheels and tires are 22-inch American Racing Novas that are staggered front and back. The tires are none other than Toyo Tires ST III. The Proxes ST III is the perfect balance of dynamic looks and sport-oriented performance for trucks and SUVs. With a wider tread and a silica-based tread compound, the Proxes ST III stops up to 6 feet shorter in wet conditions while delivering superb handling, excellent all-season performance, consistent wear and a smooth, quiet ride. These tires are also backed by a 40,000-mile warranty.
This reproduction black plastic grille is designed for models with dual composite headlamps and made to replace the original. However, it features semi-flush Bowtie emblem mounting pad for a smooth, clean look.